The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra continued its summer season in Alpharetta on Wednesday night with what has become a tradition over the past five years with a July 4th concert.
The U.S. Army Chorus lent their voices to the show, amping up the patriotic fervor when singing appropriate tunes to the concert’s theme. I worried that the sound setup wouldn’t be up to the task when it was at times hard to hear them over the music from the orchestra on the opening number, The Star-Spangled Banner. It could have been that I was seated at a table on the floor in the lower seating area, and the combination of being so close to the musicians and hearing them over the speakers amped up the sound. So those people in the upper seating areas might have had no problems – especially the lawn far back and not under the amphitheater’s roof.
ASO concerts at the amphitheater tend to be themed as pops concerts, with an emphasis on using music composed by John Williams and Irving Berlin more than Bach, Beethoven and other classical composers. But to me, it was a bit jarring to hear the U.S. Army Chorus singing a movie theme song (“Go The Distance” from the film Hercules), Rascall Flatts’ “Bless The Broken Road” and a medley from Jersey Boys, a Broadway show. However, the sound setup revealed itself to be perfect for the solos several chorus members performed.
When you hear that the U.S. Army Chorus is going to perform, do you imagine a bunch of men with stiff, military bearing singing with powerful voices? That would be half right. They have the voices, but during songs they let loose a little, getting into the mood of the songs and showing they enjoyed themselves. That was reflected in their singing, as well.
But the men weren’t the only ones to sing this evening. Tony Award winner Debbie Gravitte took the stage to sing another famous Broadway tune, “And All That Jazz” from the hit Chicago. On the evening she stuck to show tunes, which clearly are her forte. But she did take the lead on Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” with the backing of the U.S. Army Chorus and the ASO. If you like Broadway show tunes like “Hello Dolly” and “Don’t Rain on My Parade” then you would have loved the evening. And since the TV show “Glee” came along, who doesn’t have an appreciation for show tunes? She even sang the song that helped her win a Tony, “Mr. Monotony.” (It was much better than the title makes it sound.)
Throughout the evening the ASO proved once again that its musicians are up to the task to perform just about any type of music. And the conductor for the evening, David Charles Abell, was able to keep the tempo matching Gravitte and the U.S. Army Chorus.
It was a bit jarring to hear Alpharetta’s fireworks going off starting with Gravitte’s performance of “Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz. She even acknowledged it with a playful change of lyrics early in the song. All of us there were fortunate that it didn’t rain during the concert, which happened at last year’s concert. Gravitte gave a nod to the crowd on the lawn, saying we were all probably glad the concert wasn’t held the night before when heavy rain came through.
The evening closed with three songs identified with the holiday. All service members were recognized during the “Armed Forces Salute,” a medley of all the military branches’ songs. The U.S. Army Chorus even provided their voices for the “1812 Overture.” And then it was time for the encore song, “Stars and Stripes Forever.
But the show wasn’t over. A few minutes later fireworks were bursting in the air above the amphitheater grounds, and most of the crowd stuck around to watch. It might not have been as grand or as long as Alpharetta’s show, but it was a crowd pleaser.